81-year-old grandmaster picked up martial arts to fend off gangs in 1950s Singapore

ST VIDEO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Chia Yan Soon (left) teaching choy li fut with another practitioner at Catholic High School in 1968.
Chia Yan Soon (left) teaching choy li fut with another practitioner at Catholic High School in 1968.PHOTO: SINGAPORE HONG SHENG KOON CHINESE KOONTOW AND LION DANCE SOCIETY
Singapore Hong Sheng Koon master Chia Yan Soon, 82, who is also the Honarable Chief of Hong Sheng Koon Chinese Koontow and Lion Dance Society, has taught both the martial art and lion dance for decades.
Singapore Hong Sheng Koon master Chia Yan Soon, 82, who is also the Honarable Chief of Hong Sheng Koon Chinese Koontow and Lion Dance Society, has taught both the martial art and lion dance for decades.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Duels in martial arts competitions are sometimes regarded more as a sport, but fighting used to be a matter of life and death in 1950s Singapore when secret societies ran amok, recalled choy li fut grandmaster Chia Yan Soon.

Then a teenager, Mr Chia had picked up martial arts skills out of interest and a practical need to fend off gangs from the fishmonger business he ran with his older brother.

Please or to continue reading the full article. Learn more about ST PREMIUM.

Enjoy unlimited access to ST's best work

  • Exclusive stories and features on multiple devices
  • In-depth analyses and opinion pieces
  • ePaper and award-winning multimedia content